Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Bye bye W regs!

Go-Ahead Plymouth have sadly withdrawn their final two centre staircase W reg Volvo B7TLs. These being 420 and 421, W509/11WGH. 

Thankfully, I was the final person to have completed a full journey on 421 (former PVL111) as she worked a return 12 service from Plymouth to Bude Saturday afternoon, which I was on for the full four hours. It then failed on Sunday, before being withdrawn Monday 25th January. They now join the other pair of W regs, 431/2 W483WGH and W493WGH in the disposal pool, awaiting sale. 

420/421 were the first two Plaxton Presidents to join the Plymouth CityBus fleet in 2011 to aid replacement of the ageing Step entrance Dennis Darts, and carried the smart two tone red livery. 

Monday, 18 January 2016

New Year, New Buses!

As we welcome 2016, there is already interesting times ahead for Plymouth as both Stagecoach and Go-Ahead receive batches of new vehicles for the area!

Following on from the batch of Alexander Dennis Enviro400s they received in the summer of last year for the 'Yellow Flash' 50 service, Plymouth CityBus placed a further order of 7 Enviro400s, as well as 13 Enviro200s. These are the first Enviro200s to join the fleet since 2008, with the Volvo B7RLE being the favoured saloon in the meantime. 

150 WJ65HME with sisters at Milehouse prior to entering service
The Enviro200s are currently on delivery, although delayed as they were due into service on 11th January, and the Enviro400s are nearing completion at Alexander Dennis's Falkirk facility. These, too, were due into service on 11th January.

The Enviro200s are numbered and registered as following:
147 WJ65HMA
148 WJ65HMC
149 WJ65HMD
150 WJ65HME
151 WJ65HMF
152 WJ65HMG
153 WJ65HMH
154 WJ65HMK
155 WJ65HMO
156 WJ65HMU
157 WJ65HMV
158 WJ65HMX
159 WJ65HMY

I've not yet got details of the Enviro400s registrations, however they are to be numbered 532-8 in the fleet.

Interior of 150 WJ65HME prior to entering service,
These new arrivals have upgraded several routes across the network to newer buses, including routes 8 & 9 Royal Parade to Efford, 23 & 24 Royal Parade to Mount Gould. These are allocated E200s 147-153, which are in the company's latest 'Swoop' livery, with the the standard red and grey interior.

Buses 154-159 will be for route 5 & 5A which connects the City Centre to Plymstock and Staddiscombe, and will be branded 'Green Flash' in line with the other Red, Blue and Yellow routes. The vehicles will feature the same interior as the standard liveried ones. Two of the Enviro400s, 532 & 533 one would assume, will also be Green Flash branded.

This leaves the remainder of the E400s, 534-8, which will be in standard swoop livery for use on the Torpoint services 70/70A/71, that are currently served by former Go-Ahead London General Volvo B7TLs. Because of the ferry, the Enviros are currently undergoing rear end modifications to assist with boarding - similar to that of Firsts 2004 'Tamar Link' Tridents, which in fact, were the last new buses for this route. 

The current order - 412 PL51LGC is seen on the coast road working
 a 32A to Liskeard
Whilst the passengers of Torpoint and Rame will no doubt appreciate the vastly improved capacity of the Enviro400s, and slightly increased reliability - it will be interesting to see how they perform on those challenging roads. My general experience of euro 5 ADL Enviros is that they are woefully sluggish and don't tend to like steep inclines, although I guess the same could be said for the current Volvo B7TLs, which being ex-TfL aren't at all used to Cornwalls difficult (to say the least) terrain. Being slightly wider than the B7TLs could also cause the Enviros a few issues, especially on the 32A where some of the roads near Downderry are extremely narrow, and buses are also contending with parked cars. I've witnessed the Volvos only just managing to negotiate those roads, to the point where had they have been any wider, they wouldn't have made it at all! It'll certainly be interesting to see what the response from both drivers, and passengers is. 

I was also quite intrigued by the fact the new Enviro200s are shorter than previous batches. With every increasing loads on routes 8 & 9, I would have expected 11.3m versions to have been bought. I've previously seen deckers on the routes, full and standing at peak times - so it'll be interesting to see how the new vehicles manage! 
151 WJ65HMF on Royal Parade - 16th January 2016

With the recent entry of Stagecoach into Plymouth, I'm very surprised that Go-Ahead chose to order old style euro 5 versions of Enviros. I would have thought they would have opted for the new MMCs, to try and stay as up to date as they could, especially with Stagecoach having new vehicles on order for the same time. With two sets of brand new vehicles on the road, with 10 years of design apart - will passengers of the new CityBus Enviros even realise their on a brand new bus?

Now, onto Stagecoach South West who have had a large influx of new vehicles within the last few weeks. The first are euro 6 Alexander Dennis Enviro400MMCs, 10457-10462 which follow on from the Exeter Park & Ride batch, This five are in fact a diverted Manchester order, intended to speed up the process of upgrading Plymouths Park & Ride services and allowing the current loaned vehicles to return to First Kernow. The batch are fitted with high back e-Leather Lazzerini 3840 seating, in a blue trim and are also said to be fitted with Stop-Start technology. All five I believe will be in a two-tone blue livery dedicated to Park & Ride services, the first two have already arrived and were present during my visit to The Ride depot on Sunday. 

10458 SN65NZR at The Ride, with 10457 seen behind.
They are registered as follows:
10457 SN65NZP
10458 SN65NZR
10459 SN65NZS
10460 SN65NZT
10461 SN65NZU
10462 SN65NZV

Rears of 10457 

The next batch are the original vehicles intended for Plymouth, 10488-10503. All sixteen are to be in standard 'swoops' livery, and fitted with low back Lazzerini 3845 seating in standard moquette as found on the majority of other Stagecoach vehicles in the UK. These Enviros are intended to replace the current S/T/V/X/04 reg Tridents on routes 1, X1 and 3. However, some Tridents may be kept for school services. Three of these were present during my visit over the weekend.

10491 SN65ZHF rests next to elderly 17006 S806BWC
The batch are registered as follows:
10488 SN65ZHB
10489 SN65ZHD
10490 SN65ZHE
10491 SN65ZHF
10492 SN65ZHG
10493 SN65ZHH
10494 SN65ZHJ
10495 SN65ZHK
10496 SN65ZHL
10497 SN65ZHM
10498 SN65ZHN
10499 SN65ZHO
10500 SN65ZHR
10501 SN65ZHT
10502 SN65ZHU
10503 SN65ZHV 

As well as the deckers, Stagecoach have also got five 11.9 metre Alexander Dennis Enviro200MMCs on order for the Park & Ride services. They will be fitted out with the same interior as 10457-62, and powered by the larger than standard Cummins ISBe6 with Voith transmission - making these the new 'SPDs' I suppose. Alexander Dennis intend to replace the full size Enviro300 with this model, so it will be interesting to see the comparison between the two! They also happen to be numbered under the 2xxxx series, whereas other Enviros are 3xxxx - this indicates them being classed as a full size saloon. Whilst at least one has arrived, it was in the paintshop Sunday so I was unable to see it, sadly. 
The registrations will be as follows:
26034 YX65RCV
26035 YX65RCY
26036 YX65RCZ
26037 YX65RDO
26038 YX65RDU

Now, for me, the most exciting of the new buses. A batch of eight 15 metre, tri-axle Volvo B11RTs with Plaxton Elite bodywork. These are intended to be used on an up and coming express service between Plymouth and Bristol, and are dressed up in a stunning livery, accordingly. These are fitted with Volvos exceptionally good euro 6 D11K engine, coupled to the successfu Automated-Manual l i-Shift 12 speed gearbox. They feature Fainsa Gala seating, and are fitted with mains plug sockets for maximum passenger comfort. 
Two were present when I visited the depot, and the batch is said to be registered:
54319 YX65VXU
54320 YX65VXV
54321 YN65VXW
54322 YN65VXX
54323 YN65XYA
54324 YN65XYB
54325 YN65XYC
54326 YN65XYD

NOTE: The registrations of 54321 onwards are NOT yet confirmed - this post may change after delivery.

The 'Falcon' service is a new venture, as part of Stagecoach's plans for Plymouth depot, and will see an hourly service during the day connecting Plymouth to Bristol City Centre, calling at Exeter Park & Ride (one would assume Honiton Road), Cullompton Services, Taunton Park & Ride, Bristol Airport and finally Bristol City Centre (one would assume they will share the Megabus stops at Colson Hall). There is also said to be overnight journeys to connect with flights from Bristol Airport.
The service is designed to run on a 'turn up and go' basis, which would leave MegaBus to all of the bookings and long distance travel. The competitive fares that are to come of Falcon will no doubt give National Express and the railways a run for their money, especially with the delays faced along Dawlish Sea Wall during periods of inclement weather, and also appeal to day trippers and students within the South West. South Devon and Exeter have been lacking any sort of decent bus service to Taunton, and Bristol for a number of years now since First gave up route 92, which itself took a rather long time to reach Taunton. It's nigh on impossible to reach Bristol by service bus in a day, never mind in any short space of time - so the Falcon is a winner in my book and I very much look forward to trying it out! Falcon is due to begin on Sunday 14th February, and more information will be available nearer the time. 

So, intriguing times ahead with all these new vehicles and I look forward to trying them all. I would like to thank Steve Mutly for numbering information on the Stagecoach vehicles, and the same to Bobby Darch for the CityBus side.